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On the mornings that she wakes up at 6 a.m., drives an hour to Cleveland, then runs four miles in 15-degree weather, Amanda Douvis said she can't help but ask herself, "Why am I doing this?"
Just as quickly as she asks herself that question, though, the answers come rushing into her mind.
What started as a way to get herself into better shape, has transpired into running for other people. Her inspiration has shifted from internal to those who have had cancer impact their lives. Whether it be a loved one or someone who has dealed directly with the pain of recovery through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
She has joined the everlasting attempt to raise attention and awareness to cancer. To do that, Douvis, who is a Kent State University senior, drives to Cleveland to meet up with running-mates from her Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) Team in Training Program.
The team is currently training for upcoming fundraising events, which will take Douvis to Washington D.C. on April 28 as a participant in the Nike Women's Half Marathon (13.1 miles).
The LLS is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. The society's mission is to find a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
And for Douvis that sentiment hit close to home recently when her aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a tiring and painful recovery, her aunt has now been cleared of cancer, but she remains one of Douvis' primary inspirations.
The running has infused a level of freshness into Douvis' life, but her primary goal is to meet her fundraising total of $3,200. In total, the 20-member Northeast Ohio group has raised close to $30,000 this year in their association with fundraising events
"I never thought of myself as a runner," said Douvis, whose only previous athletic background was recreational softball. "I always could do short distances, but I did not run my first mile until last June. I was so excited, and I kept pushing myself. Soon I was running two miles, then three miles."
Douvis then found herself at a point she candidly admitted she never thought she would attain.
"At the start of our training, a person on our team told me that one day I will look at four miles and consider it a short run," said Douvis, who is from Howland. "There was no way I ever thought I would be saying that."
Now that she has reached that point and much more?
"It feels amazing. It really does."
Douvis has found it easy to stay motivated, but is most proud of her dedication to stay committed to the project and stay on schedule with her expected progression of adding one mile to her distance runs each week.
"You hear stories about those that have been impacted by cancer and it leaves lasting images in your head. When I feel like I am reaching a barrier when running, I think of them. I feel like if they could battle through what has been placed in front of them, then I can push through," said the marketing major, who also carries a minor in accounting and is in line to graduate on Aug. 17.
Through it all, Douvis says she has learned a little bit about herself.
"For me, it is just an example of the fact that anything can be done. You just have to want it."